Over the past decade, the amount of added sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners in foods and beverages has increased dramatically, according to a study published in The Conversation and shared by Science Alert.
Using global market sales data, the study authors examined the amount of added sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners sold in packaged foods and beverages from 2007 to 2019. They found that the amount of non-nutritive sweeteners in beverages per person is now 36%. globally higher. Added sugars in packaged foods are 9% higher.
Humans are naturally attracted to sugar. Some naturally sweet foods like fruit and honey were also important sources of energy for our ancestors, the research authors recall.
But in today’s modern world, we tend to consume too many added and unnatural types of sugary foods and beverages. These products are often very cheap on the supermarket shelves and are advertised more heavily.
Evidence shows that consuming added sugar can have disastrous health effects, putting you at risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes or even dental problems, the researchers say. Many governments have therefore taken steps to limit this intake in food and drink.
However, this had a perverse effect: manufacturers, to avoid fines or to respond to changing public preferences, gradually resorted to non-nutritive sweeteners to sweeten foods, such as aspartame or stevia. However, these non-nutritive sweeteners also pose health risks and can stimulate our taste buds to always crave sweet foods, the researchers explain.
“This is of particular concern for children, who continue to develop their taste preferences throughout their lives,” the researchers warn. Their study shows that these non-nutritive sweeteners are most commonly added to confectionery such as ice cream and sweet cookies.
Differences between rich and poor countries
The amount of added sugar used to sweeten beverages has now increased worldwide. But the researchers point out that this is largely explained by a 50 percent increase in middle-income countries like China and India.
The study shows that food manufacturers would indeed be supplying less sugary and “healthier” products to more affluent countries where the packaged food and beverage market is saturated, while “to continue their growth, large food and beverage companies in the mid- Income range grow countries.
“We need to keep a close eye on the increasing sweetness of foods and beverages and the increasing use of added sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners,” the researchers conclude. This will likely shape our future taste preferences, food choices and human health around the world.”